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US report: Increasing salaries, alleviating classroom stress will stop teacher shortage

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Economic Policy Institute released a report on how the pandemic has exacerbated a long-standing national shortage of teachers.

It acknowledges that there’s always been a pre-existing shortage of teachers. It is especially severe in schools with high shares of students of color or students from low-income families.

The reports said a shortage is not a function of an inadequate number of qualified teachers in the U.S. economy. Simply, there are too few qualified teachers willing to work at current compensation levels given the increasingly stressful environment.

To end the teacher shortage, the institute said state leaders must address the two most pressing reasons for the shortage: the long-standing decline in the pay of teachers relative to other workers with a college degree and the high and increasing levels of stress public school teachers face.

A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and other staff threatens students’ ability to learn and reduces teachers’ effectiveness, undermining the education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.

RELATED: Teachers’ union says pay, benefit increases only way to end teacher shortage

“Just before the pandemic and what we’re seeing moving forward is that the shortage exists throughout the system at all grade levels,” said Keith Gambill, the president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “Prior to the pandemic, there were shortages. We were beginning to see those especially in special education. There were other shortages especially at the high school level.”

He’s been the president long before the pandemic, and said if there isn’t a significant change, it’ll cause a negative domino affect for Hoosiers.

“We’re also going to have to address the need for increasing our support staff pay. For many of them it’s falling below a living wage,” Gambill said.

Just yesterday, he and the association said lawmakers should use the upcoming budget session to make long-overdue investments:

More than a decade of inadequate education funding and efforts to de-professionalize the education profession has resulted in an educator shortage crisis. ISTA has a plan, but it will take us all, educators, school administrators and parents, to make sure all students have caring, qualified, committed educators in their school.

Ahead of the 2023 session, their legislative priorities are to implement competitive and attractive pay and benefits, increase educator voice, respect and professional autonomy, improve learning and working conditions and they inspire and prepare the next generation of educators.

The Indiana Department of Education is currently leading several initiatives to grow the state’s educator pipeline, including:

  • Launching the Indiana Learning Lab, a one-stop-shop for instructional resources, professional development, and other best practices to support our educators and families. They now have 32,000 users statewide which is equivalent to half of the Indiana educators statewide
  • The Attract, Prepare, & Retain Grant awarded $10.6 million to schools and community partners to support locally-driven innovative ideas for attracting, preparing and retaining educators
  • Supporting schools and educators through registered apprenticeships, Grow Your Own programs, or partnerships with local and national higher education providers
  • Launching the nation’s first federally-registered apprenticeship in special education, using a Grow Your Own Model, students will begin a pathway toward becoming a special education teacher while in high school. Students will graduate from college a year early with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in special education from Ball State University.
  • Launching the Indiana Special Education Assisted Licensure (I-SEAL) and the Teachers of English Learners Licensure (I-TELL) initiatives- – streamlining coursework requirements for special education and English learner teachers, pay for coursework, etc.

The department also approved 16 special education transition to teaching programs, which is up seven programs from a year ago, creating more opportunities for individuals to start teaching students in special education.

The department said if anyone is interested in pursuing a career in teaching, now is a great time! A prospective educator can learn more about the growing number of pathways available to the classroom here.

“The state did make progress in 2021 with infusion of dollars to help us move forward with the teachers salaries. We’re going to have to keep continuing that though. It can not just be a one time, one and done situation,” Gambill said.